Athletics coach Dronacharya, Joginder Singh Saini, dies at 90

PATIALA: Dronacharya's award-winning athletic trainer and Indian athletic mentor Joginder Singh Saini He died at his residence in Patiala on Sunday morning due to age-related problems. He was 90 years old.

Saini, who served as an advisor to the Athletics Federation of India, had a career as a coach for over 50 years. He began his career as an athletic trainer in 1954. Having served as a coach in the National Sports Institute since 1961, he was appointed Chief Instructor of the then Amateur Athletics Federation of India in 1970. He trained the Indian athletic contingent who had won eight gold medals of 18 medals at the 1978 Asian Games.

Saini, who trained international players including Gurbachan Singh Randhawa and his contemporaries, remained as national coach until 2004, after which he joined the AFI as an advisor. He was awarded the Dronacharya Award in 1998. A science graduate, he took athletics coaching after completing a diploma in physical education & a course in coaching at the National Sports Institute under Brutus Milton & Ken Doherty in 1954

He started his career under the Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur scheme, which was later merged with the National Sports Institute , Patiala.

Saini was born on January 1, 1930, in Hariana a very small village in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab. According to National coach Parveer Singh, who trained under Saini, during his younger days, he competed in hurdles & also played hockey but his love remained athletics & ultimately he took up the sport as a profession. "Almost every top athlete in India in 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s & early 2000 received training & guidance by him in different forms," he said.

Expressing grief on his demise, the AFI said: "Saini was known by everyone whose life he touched. He was among the country's foremost coaches & served the federation as selectors for the national squads."

AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said, "I am truly sad to hear of the passing away of our colleague, my Chief Coach & mentor, Saini Saab. He loved athletics & contributed to the Athletics Federation of India till his last day. He was my friend, philosopher & guide & helped me immensely in my role as AFI President with his sound advice. He has left behind a great void which will not easy to fill.